08/22/11 — FOOTBALL TAB -- Good numbers boost Britt's beliefs

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FOOTBALL TAB -- Good numbers boost Britt's beliefs

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 22, 2011 1:47 PM

Rosewood head football coach Robert Britt knows that leading a Class 1-A football program is a cyclical venture. He also knows that the 2011 edition of the Eagles are at the peak of their most-recent cycle.

"There are years when your numbers go down and you just don't have the athletes to be a contender," Britt said. "But this year we have the numbers and we have the experience at key positions which makes me think that this season should be a productive one."

Rosewood began practice with 49 players dressed and added a handful more as some of the varsity players finished their driver's education requirements during the first week of August. Overall, the Eagles return eight starters on offense and nine starters on defense from the 2010 campaign.

The offense will look much the same as it did a season ago, but with a few new wrinkles in the passing game. With senior signal caller Taylor McGill back under center, Britt is confident that his team can handle the new schemes.

"We are still going to run some basic wing-T principals, but we also wanted to incorporate some more passing to keep teams honest on defense," Britt said. "We came in this spring and began to put in some passing sets, and the guys have responded to it pretty well so far."

Having all five starters back on the offensive line should also help the Rosewood offense. Veteran tight end Will Winslow returns for his senior season.

"Every year it seems like line play gets more and more important on both sides of the ball," Britt said. "This year we have the experience and we have the size to battle in the trenches that we may have been lacking in the past."

The impetus for adding a passing element to the wing-T offense was the lack of big-play potential in the ball control-oriented formation. Falling behind early in games meant having to play flawlessly on both sides of the ball to get back into the contest.

Not any more, according to Britt.

"You can have an explosive play in the wing-T, but it has to come from somebody breaking a long run," Britt said. "Now we feel like we can make a big play throwing the ball, too. When the situation calls for it we can line up and complete some passes."

On the defensive side of the ball, Britt expects the Eagles to be more physical at the point of attack. He also hopes that his group of talented linebackers, led by Greg Cavenaugh, can help limit the opponents' big-play opportunities.

Rosewood will line up in a base 4-4 defense that is designed to stop the run, which will be key if the Eagles are going to be able to compete with Carolina 1-A Conference powers Goldsboro and Ayden-Grifton. Both of the league's top two teams over the past two seasons are known for their potent ground games.

"You have to be able to stop the run in this conference, plain and simple," Britt said. "If you can't stop the run you are not going to be able to hang in there with (Goldsboro and Ayden-Grifton)."

The defense's improvement should keep the team in games during the early part of the season as the offense finds it's rhythm. A year ago, the Eagles allowed 25 points per game en route to a 4-7 regular-season record. Rosewood topped South Davidson in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs before having their season end at Hobbton in a 35-0 defeat.

In the offseason the Eagles' coaching staff worked hard to revamp the 2011 schedule and did so by not renewing a contract with Hobbton and adding Lejeune. A mix-up during the contract process with North Johnston also led to the Panthers being taken off the schedule in favor of North Stokes.

The Eagles open the season Friday at Charles B. Aycock.